“I still wish you’d reconsider,” he says. “I’m worried about you.” But he doesn’t look worried. He looks irritated that I have refused to accept his diagnosis that I am sick and in need of the medicine he’s been trying to shove down my throat for the last two and a half years. “You haven’t really addressed your problems here.”
“What problems?” I say. I’ve already explained to him that the biggest problem I have is people like him believing that I’m the problem. But he won’t see the truth. None of them will. Adults always believe the parents over the kid, it’s a fact of life.
“For instance . . . you still haven’t talked to me about your nightmares.”
Just the mention of my nightmares makes something seize up inside of me. But there’s no way in hell I’d ever talk to Meeks about them. Or about anything else for that matter. I pull a loose thread of fabric from my shirt and examine it with my fingers. All I have to do is sit here quietly and bide my time for one hour and I’ll never have to do this again.
“I wish we had more time,” he continues, “to develop a trusting relationship.”
“Trust?” I say with a laugh. I know it’s not even worth engaging at this point, but it’s just so irritating. “Maybe if you’d tried listening to me instead of falling for my mother’s—”
“Cassie, your mother loves you. She brought you to us because she wanted you to get well. We all do.”
I shoot forward, unable to stop myself. “Really? My mother loves me? ’Cause you’ve said that before and I’m curious: what has she ever done to make you think that?”
“Cassie . . .”
“I mean, putting aside the vicious lies—is it the once every, what, six months that she managed to visit? The letters she never wrote, the phone calls she never made?”
“Or is it just that you’ve fallen for the myth that all mothers love their children?” As if all people feel the same way about anything. As if there’s only one feeling you can have. “I’m being serious here, because maybe there’s something I’m missing. I need to know why—”
“You don’t know what you need, Cassie!” he fires back.
I put my hands up and fall back into the couch again. “Okay,” I say. “That’s helpful.” I turn away from him, the internal shield hardening as if my organs have been injected with concrete. I look to the open window beside his desk and think of how often over the last few years I fantasized about making a run for it, leaping out. I turn back to him. “I wonder if you’ll ever look back someday and consider that maybe, just maybe, I was telling the truth all along. I hope you do. I hope you wonder about that.”
His face is without emotion, cold and reptilian.
“Then again maybe you always knew my mother was lying, but what did you care, she was paying the bills, right?”
“I think you need to take a deep breath, Cassie,” he says, folding his arms across his chest. “You’re getting out of control.”
I can feel it in my stomach, the grenade he has just deposited in me. He watches now, waiting for it to explode so he can sit back, satisfied, and say, “See!”
I clamp my teeth down on the anger—just two more days here—and turn back to the window, letting my mind drift beyond the glass, floating high into the treetops. All that’s left in this room is my body—my breath and my blood circulating at the energy-conserving level of a child’s night-light. The rest of me is gone. Dr. Meeks calls this dissociation.
I call it escape.
The truth is I have mixed feelings about leaving this place. I desperately want to go, but I have spent half of my teenage years here, insulated as an oyster and so far from the real world that I no longer know what it is or how to live in it. I feel like a newborn about to be dropped off on life’s doorstep, totally unequipped to navigate the world outside these doors. It’s no secret that Dr. Meeks thinks I’ll fail, that I’ll be back. Or worse, that I’ll be just another statistic. Another kid found too late, bleeding out in a bathtub or beside an empty bottle of pills.
Sometimes I worry that he’s right.
I wonder if it would feel different if I were going home. Not that I’ve been invited or that I think it would be a good idea, but the known universe always feels easier even when it’s miserable. Most of the kids here talk constantly about the glorious day when they will finally be reunited with their families, never mind the fact that it was their screwed-up parents who messed them up and then dumped them here. That’s another fact of life—it’s really hard not to love your parents, even when they suck. But I’m not like that. I try to have as little contact with my mother as possible. Every once in a while this primal longing erupts in me, a sort of lost-alone-in-the-dark desperation that strikes deep in my chest. But as soon as that happens, I hold my breath and suffocate the feeling until it passes. I don’t want anything to do with her. Not after what she’s done.
But the thing is, when you don’t have a mother, you don’t have a home, and when you don’t have a home, there’s nowhere to go when you’re sad or scared or alone, even in your own mind, there’s just nowhere to go.
As if from a great distance, I hear Meeks ask me if I have anything I want to say to him before our final session is over.
“Actually,” I say, leaning forward, “there is one last, very important thing I want to tell you.”
He blinks and his head jerks back slightly in surprise. “Okay,” he says, summoning his best impression of a serious doctor—cupped hands, level brow, listening eyes. But his mouth betrays him, twisting as if to suppress the hope that he is finally about to get his breakthrough.
I take a deep breath. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but . . . I guess I’ll just go ahead and say it. Right now, at this very moment . . .” He leans in. “There are . . . little blue men climbing up the window behind you. They’re, oh my God, Dr. Meeks, I think they might be Smurfs!”